Electronics contain precious metals such as titanium, copper, lithium, gold, and cobalt. These natural materials are extracted from the earth and are being depleted at an unsustainable rate.
With 180 million electrical and electronic products being sold in the UK every year, growing demand is having a negative impact on the environment.
The mining process itself generates greenhouse gases, a lot of waste and pollution whilst also requiring large amounts of water.
Metal mines often sit within forests that have been cleared to make way for them, threatening biodiversity.
Refining the raw metals and the manufacturing of electronic products is also energy intensive. The carbon emissions associated with the production and transportation of the products further contribute to climate change.
1.6 million tonnes of household electrical waste is disposed of annually.
Buying second-hand electricals is a more sustainable way to consume than buying new.
Now let’s hear from three North Londoners about why they decided to buy a preowned electrical item and the impact this had.
Katie recently moved to her own home in Hackney and was reluctant to buy everything new. She wants to do her bit to fight climate change and favours quality items already in existence over cheap, disposable goods.
“I’m conscious of my carbon footprint so wanted to buy as much as I could second hand. We all know charity shops can be great places to find vintage furniture, but I wasn’t sure where to go for the white goods I needed for my kitchen. A friend of mine actually suggested the Salvation Army as his mum volunteers there, and I found a fridge which was in great working order. I paid for it there and then and arranged for the Salvation Army to deliver it to my house just a few days later.
“I genuinely can’t see any reason why the original owner was getting rid of it in the first place, but sadly we live in a throwaway society where people seem to want the latest model of everything. I reckon the fridge has got years of life left in it and I’m so glad I gave it a second home and it didn’t end up in landfill unnecessarily.”
Buying a refurbished laptop saves 225kg of carbon dioxide, a reduction of 75%. That is the equivalent emissions as driving 1,529 kilometres. It also saves 190,000 litres of water.
Buying a second-hand computer saves 270kg of carbon dioxide and a second-hand TV saves 168kg.
Trudi, a Hackney resident, often opts to buy preloved items. She enjoys baking but is conscious of how expensive it is to live in London and is always searching for ways to save money and not let things go to waste.
“I needed a good quality hand beater with an affordable price tag as I really enjoy trying out new recipes and I’ve been feeling restricted with what I can make. I went to a locally charity shop and I stumbled upon a hand blender by Kenwood – a brand I knew was great because I remembered using one with my grandma, which she had had for decades. I bought it for just £5 and have been using it to diversify my baking for 4 years now.
“I was so pleased to have found what I was looking for because buying second hand is much better for the environment and more cost-effective. This experience has given me more confidence to buy second-hand electricals in future, and you never know, you might come across an item that conjures up positive childhood memories, as a bonus.”
Sophia from Islington is a young professional who likes to have fun on a budget and make sustainable choices. She needed a new phone so asked her network for recommendations.
“When I realised my current phone was on its last legs I was a bit worried about buying a new one and what that would mean for my bank account and the environment. I asked my brother for recommendations and he encouraged me to get a refurbished phone, explaining that the quality is the same and it’s a fraction of the price of a new one. I thought it was a brilliant idea as it's important to do your bit for the planet. I looked on eBay and found a refurbished iPhone in one of the newest models, half the price of a new one and just one click away. I ordered it and three years on it’s still going strong!
“I felt so empowered that this venture worked out - I would definitely buy reconditioned or refurbished again and I recommend the same to my friends because it’s more economical, less wasteful, you don’t actually need a brand new phone, and you’re helping to protect the earth's resources.”
Buying a refurbished phone instead of a new one saves 77.59kg of carbon dioxide. This saving is the equivalent of burning 9 gallons of petrol!
Buying a second hand phone also uses 87% less raw materials, generates 89% less waste, and saves 76,000 litres of water. That’s enough drinking water to last you 65 years!